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WordPress SEO and Site Migrations with Arsen Rabinovich [Podcast]

WordPress SEO and Site Migrations with Arsen Rabinovich [Podcast]

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In this episode, Loren Baker talks with Arsen Rabinovich, Founder & Managing Partner at TopHatRank, about WordPress SEO, often overlooked SEO issues, site migrations, and much more.

Here is the entire transcript of the show (please excuse any transcription errors) :

Loren Baker:

And we are live. Hi everybody. This is Loren Baker, founder of Search Engine Journal. And with me I have Dr. Arsen Rabinovich 404 error. Are you the real

Arsen Rabinovich:

Rabinovich. Say Rabinovich properly. Rabinovich.

Loren Baker:

Rabinovich. Rabinovich.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Say it like a Russian.

Loren Baker:

Did I pronounce that-

Arsen Rabinovich:

Rabinovich.

Loren Baker:

Rabinovich. That’s how I pronounced it the first time.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

Hey, Arsen how’s it going?

Arsen Rabinovich:

It’s going great. Thanks for having me.

Loren Baker:

So, Arsen is the-

Arsen Rabinovich:

The doctor.

Loren Baker:

CEO, founder of TopHatRank. So we’re happy to have you on here today, Dr. Arsen.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Pleasure.

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Loren Baker:

Sorry, doctor of what?

Arsen Rabinovich:

I’ll tell you when we stop broadcasting. It’s a very serious expertise that I’m in.

Loren Baker:

It’s too serious

Arsen Rabinovich:

Too serious.

Loren Baker:

Too serious for live television.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

It’s a pleasure to have you here today, Arsen. We’re going to be talking about site migrations. Which is something, I think one of the first times I met you in real life outside of Twitter, and texting and Facebook, you did a… Oliver from Hamburg says hi. Hi, Oliver.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Hi, Oliver.

Loren Baker:

You did-

Arsen Rabinovich:

Where are you seeing this?

Loren Baker:

Click on the comment thing-

Arsen Rabinovich:

I see it now. Right.

Loren Baker:

…within streaming. So just to let everyone know, it’s going to be really confusing for audio listeners when we drop this podcast on our feed in a week or two. Just to let you know if you’re viewing live, you can leave comments on Facebook or on YouTube. And Arsen, and I will see them and we’ll talk about them. Unless they’re silly, then we’ll talk about them more. Where were we? So the first time I met you in real life Arsen, you were doing a presentation at NAPA Summit about site migrations.

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Loren Baker:

I really thought that was interesting. Because it’s kind of a thing that… The most issues that I see, especially working with sites that have been around for a long time, is that they’ve been migrated in the past. No one knows about it. There’s not necessarily a breadcrumb trail, no pun intended. Showing what’s happened? Why it went from HTML to dot ASP? To Shopify, or to WordPress, or to whatever it’s in. What happened to old subdomains, etc. Typically I just find out those migration when I look in Ahrefs and look at their broken inbound links report. Whoa. So tell me a little bit about migrations. Why people… Well first tell me a little bit about yourself, and our viewers, about yourself and about TopHatRank.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Awesome. So TopHatRank. I started TopHatRank back in 2009. Well, 2009 I started the consultancy. 2010 is when TopHatRank formed. We’re now a little bit over 10 years. We are an award-winning SEO agency. We are very boutique. We had offices here in LA. But about a year before COVID. We went fully remote. So now we’re a fully distributed team all over the US. I’m very happy that we did that. Everybody on my team is happy that we went completely remote.

Arsen Rabinovich:

And we work with brands of all sizes. We were not a niche down agency. We work with everyone from Mom & Pop’s, to recipe publishers and bloggers. We do a lot of work with them. And we also work with really big brands. We have a fairly decent enterprise local business. And we are a full-service SEO agency. We also have two sister agencies that we launched TopHatContent and TopHatSocial. And we’ve been we’ve been doing this SEO thing for some time now.

Loren Baker:

Before we get into migrations, I want to talk a little bit about printing a boutique agency. Because I have a boutique agency as well, and we’re virtual. Digital first, virtual first. Whatever you want to call it. We’re virtual. So we don’t have an office. We all work from home, right? It makes things easier. And dammit, I’ve been pinged every day in my email, in my LinkedIn, by these people that are apparently experts on scaling your agency. And they’re like, “I’m going to give you leads. I’m going to help you scale your agency.” I don’t want to scale my agency.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Why don’t you answer my emails Loren? I’ve been sending them to you.

Loren Baker:

Do you want to scale your agency? Or do you like having boutique? And what does that mean scale your agency? Take on a bunch of work at once and overwhelm everybody?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. So we’ve gone to a larger amount of employees, and I wasn’t happy with that. But that was a while back, right? This was when I was in charge of the SEO department. I was the CEO, I was the HR department. I was one button, multiple seats. And it became really frustrating and complicated. And it was way too many personalities to kind of manage. And just, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. We were making good money. But it was just like… Maybe if at that point, I had the right team, the right leadership team in place-

Loren Baker:

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The right operations.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. The right operations in place, things would have gone differently. But kind of like… I’m just like, “You know what?” We were making, even though we were billing more, at the end of the day, we were making the same money with a big team, than with a smaller team. And I’m like, What’s the point, right? I’m just going to keep it,” Plus just, I made certain decisions. So you’ve lessons learned. I made certain decisions, and we did some stuff on the social side, instead of sticking to like “We’re good at SEO.”

Arsen Rabinovich:

This was 2012, 2013. I found this process of growing Facebook pages, super-fast. It was this really shady approach. I’m not going to talk about it. But it worked. It wasn’t hacking anything or anything. It was just, basically going around Google, not Google’s, Facebook’s paid native advertising to grow your pages. And just using other pages to help promote your content, whatever. So we built this giant thing around it, this whole system. And it was working, we were working with really big brands. And I was just throwing money into it. But then the algorithm… Facebook changed its algorithm.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Where we used to, and where we… This was 2013, right? I’m sure everybody remembers. We went from being able to literally grow a page from zero to 100,000 likes, that were engaging our top member, Tat talking about it score. Our Tat used to… The amount of people talking about the reach of the post was so high, that it really makes sense to spend money on ads. Anyways, long story short, the algorithm came out and learned an important lesson about not romanticizing a platform. And too many eggs in one basket. And I just basically had to close down that entire department. Because we weren’t able to produce what we were doing before that, before the algorithm.

Loren Baker:

So you’re focusing more so, just on the SEO component and have some side businesses now. Associated with the mother brand.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

That are rather more manageable?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Absolutely. Right. But-

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Loren Baker:

Let’s go back and-

Arsen Rabinovich:

Go ahead.

Loren Baker:

Sorry, go ahead.

Arsen Rabinovich:

So the scaling component. I don’t know. I don’t want to scale. I would rather open up another agency that specialized in something else and keep that boutique and kind of just go do a lateral move instead of just quit growing the SEO team more and more and more.

Loren Baker:

I would definitely say that before anyone attempts to scale, make sure you have everything set up operational as well, right? If you have a team of five or a team of 10, or a team of 20 doubling or tripling that overnight is not easy. So let’s get into migrations. Seeing them, they come up all the time. A lot of people, even sometimes teams don’t know about them. Maybe they happened in the past. But let’s talk about intentful migration. You’re working on a project, you know it’s going to migrate. Maybe they told you it’s going to happen. Maybe the client told you it’s going to happen next week. Maybe it’s three months down the road. But what are the most important components of preparing for a site migration?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. So there’s all kinds of migrations. There’s all kinds of migrations. Everything from protocol, right? To moving a host, to updating a theme, updating your design, moving from one CMS to another. And each one should be approached a little bit differently, right? It’s important to obviously, the 101s, right? The redirects, right? You want to make sure there’s redirects if you’re going to be changing around how your site is structured anywhere else, you want to make sure the redirects are in place. But then there’s also very important things that obviously need to be done.

Arsen Rabinovich:

And it’s important to split it into things that are important to be done before the migration, and then things that can be done post migration, right? And from traveling around and speaking about migrations, and listening to other peers in the industry talk about migration. Some people have this approach where it’s not a stressful thing. A lot of things that you don’t catch pre-migration can be done post-migration. Which is true. You can still fix it post-migration, but if you’re working with a big brand and a week of fixing post-launch of new site, where the rankings are fluctuating. Because Google is trying to figure out, “Hey, what happened? Where are these pages? There’s new redirects? There’s new things in place. I have to recalculate things.” Right? Week or two.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Those days of low rankings can be hundreds of thousands of dollars for a brand. Sometimes millions of dollars, right? So you want to approach each migration by getting all of the stakeholders involved, right? What’s going to happen if we don’t get a one-to-one transition, post-launch right away? Where is it going to hurt the most? Understanding that. Understanding the shifts in inventory. Understanding which categories are now going to be gone. Understanding, are we changing the way things are laid out? Is super important before you do anything else, right. But at the same time, these are opportunities for sites to improve, right? Because if you’re already migrating, you might as well take a look at some of the issues that have been holding you back pre-migration. And address them during the migration.

Loren Baker:

Or issues that you’ve identified, that you’ve escalated, but have been held because of development priorities or anything like that. That typically occurs when working with an enterprise client or larger whatever it may be, right?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

So it’s a great chance to get all those fixes in that you’ve wanted to get in for a long time. Because if the site is not clean pre-migration, a lot of that’s going to carry over to the post-migration component too, right?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Absolutely. And then you have things like… You might have a whole bunch of weird redirects that end of the canonical, that’s pointing somewhere else. That you’re looking at it only in the last hop, right? When you’re doing the migration. There was a redirect from page A to page B. And now we’re changing the URL so we’re going to redirect that again. A lot of people don’t know… This is a test that I do for any new hire from a technical SEO team. I ask them, “There’s a A to B redirect, and then there’s a B to C redirect.” That’s a hop, right? I ask them, “How would you fix that, right? How would you fix the A to B, B to C redirect?” And the right answer is you redirect A to C and you redirect B to C. You don’t need the A to B redirect anymore, right? So A to B, B to C, is fixed by going A to C, B to C. So that simple trick, that’s knowing that, already helps you with cutting down on those redirect chains, right?

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Loren Baker:

It’s incredibly effective, as well.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. Or even saying, “Hey, a lot of these redirects are not needed anymore. You’re going to create some confusing… Or these canonicals. These canonical signals are confusing. Let’s get rid of them, right? They’re not needed anymore. You’re moving to a whole different infrastructure.

Loren Baker:

Got you. And then also the fact that one thing is, developers are happy to use a redirect on the back end. But you also have to make sure that that redirect is not necessarily identifiable on the front end, right? Meaning that you don’t want to have links in your navigation, links in your legacy blog content, links to… You don’t want Google to be able to discover a redirect on your site. They may discover it on other sites that point to your old content and then redirect accordingly, which is fine. But you never went to Google to discover a redirect in the site itself, because it’s going to slow down everything. It’s going to really affect your crawl.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

Cool. Now, say you have the chance to plan out a migration. Whether it’s a infrastructure or CMS migration, say going from Shopify or BigCommerce, where you’re taking a Shopify blog, and their silly URL structure, and you’re migrating that over to a WordPress. Maybe on a subdomain or something like that. What are some things that… It is a silly URL structure, right? It’s like slash blogs, slash name of the blog. No one else has ever said, “Hey, maybe this site only wants to have one blog. They don’t…

Arsen Rabinovich:

Loren, do we care? That’s the question, right? So this is something that comes up a lot. This is something that comes up… Especially in what I do, right? We do a lot of Shopify migrations. We migrate to Shopify, right? We work we go Magento-

Loren Baker:

Trade platform.

Arsen Rabinovich:

We just took one of our one of our biggest e-commerce clients from Magento to Shopify. He got frustrated with Magento. He’s like, “That’s it. I’m moving to Shopify.” Right? And we had to redo everything. Because you’re going from a really deep nested structure in URL, where it’s multiple folders and multiple directories, right? To Shopify’s, here is your very clean and strict. It’s very German, right? And it’s just like, Here are your collections and here are your products. You don’t get to go right, you don’t get to go left.”

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. But I love it. A lot of SEOs are like, “Oh my God, that sucks.” I love it. I love putting everything in their tight little spots. Because I don’t really care. I don’t care what the URL looks like. I really don’t. Because I’m controlling all of that with breadcrumbs. I’m controlling those relationships between pages, that same organization you’re going to get in the URL by putting those slashes those directories, right? Forward slash blog, forward slash blogs, forward slash Loren is an awesome guy, he’s all the content about Loren being awesome, right?

Arsen Rabinovich:

I don’t care what that URL is. I’m doing everything with breadcrumbs. And because things are nested in the route, it future proofs your site. I’m giving away the secret sauce, right? Because I can… It’s much easier to move around the breadcrumbs to reorganize how things are organized, right? Which content topics are in which categories. When you don’t have to do redirects. Because everything is in the route. It doesn’t matter where it lives in the URL, if you’re controlling it with the breadcrumb, right?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

So if I have a post that lives forward slash Loren is awesome because he has this webinar, right? But I want it to live inside of a Loren is awesome category, right? I’m not going to have Loren.com forward slash Loren is awesome, forward slash Loren is awesome because he has this webinar, right? I’m just going to have everything in the route. And I’m going to control the rest, the nesting those relationships, I’m going to control the breadcrumbs, right? Because it’s much easier to reorganize and shuffle the breadcrumbs than to redirect pages on a website.

Loren Baker:

You can do that behind the scenes. You don’t have to liquid, right?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Doesn’t change your landing pages for your pins, right? Because you change the URL, you’re losing those social share accounts. You change that URL, you have to if you’re running ads, you have to update all of your landing pages. It’s work, right? Why would I do that? If I can show Google, the relationships between pages without creating URL level nesting, and just do it with breadcrumbs, put everything in its tight little boxes, just like with Shopify. Here are all the collections. Here are all the collections. Here are all the products. Now on that product page, I’m going to have a breadcrumb that tells Google that this product, is nested within this collection, right? Same thing with the blog. It just takes a very smart developer to be able to execute that kind of a structure with breadcrumbs. Because that doesn’t happen out of the box.

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Loren Baker:

Cool, I love it. I love it. So besides the ability to restructure and classify a Shopify site via breadcrumbs, besides my love hate relationship I have with Shopify powered blogs. Besides planning for migration and the 301 redirects and everything else. What are some other surprises that can come up after the migration, after you’ve changed to a new domain URL structure, a new brand, or you’ve changed your CMS or something along those lines. What are some surprises that you see popping up the Sitemaps, or 404s yada, yada, yada? What do you typically see when you look for it?

Arsen Rabinovich:

The first thing we see is the old site nested in forward slash old, the entire site.

Loren Baker:

Thank you.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Like whoopsie.

Loren Baker:

Thank you

Arsen Rabinovich:

We saved it for you. Hey, guys? Do you have access to the old site? Of course, it’s in forward slash old. Cool, let’s take a look. And the whole thing is index, the whole thing has been crawled. Its index.

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Loren Baker:

Or, this is my favorite. With all of the Conversion Rate Optimization companies out there, URL dash one, URL dash two, URL or URL.

Arsen Rabinovich:

URL one. Right.

Loren Baker:

URL dash three. And it’s like, “What’s the point of doing this? Oh, we were split testing, the usability and design of telling me at a time, we’ve just fed Google multiple pages of different content. We’ve lost our rankings. etc. Oh, you did it on the old URL too.” Go for it. Go ahead. Slash forward.

Arsen Rabinovich:

We’ve seen all kinds of stuff. I’ve personally seen personal files on the FTP. You can just crawl through the site and find them and just all kinds of stuff. But a lot of things get left behind. You see a lot of… So a lot of themes back in the day, used shortcodes, right? To create elements.

Loren Baker:

You see that hapenning a lot.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. And then you’re like-

Loren Baker:

Developer shortcuts.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. You crawl through a site or they go live. And they come back, post-migration, right? Post factum, they come back and like, “We migrated and everything’s went to poop.” Loren told me I couldn’t use bad words. Now, everything went to poop. Arsen help us, right? You do a crawl through the site. And then you’re like, “Well, your H1 is this weird sequence of bracket, little squiggly bracket, heading, equals, straight line, design, question mark.” And it’s just like, “It’s not resolving.” Right. Nothing’s happening with it, because it’s a new theme. There’s no hooks for it. There’s like, “Right. It’s WordPress.” WordPress is just like, “Whatever, I’m going to throw this into the rendered page.” Right? All kinds of things go wrong. We see double canonicals on a page. Two plugins, right? Two canonicals. One pointing to the-

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Loren Baker:

And then-

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

No index, no follow. Because the staging environment was no index. And that’s my favorite. We’ve pushed a lot of-

Arsen Rabinovich:

The push from production. Right? Push from

Loren Baker:

Directly from production, no index, no follow.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. I’ve made a quick 50 bucks here and there.

Loren Baker:

It’s the first thing I check.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right, that’s the first thing. There’s a lot. We have our internal checklists. We don’t publish them. But there’s really awesome resource… Aleyda has, if you Google her name Aleyda Solis. And she has an amazing migration checklist. Bastian Grimm has a lot of resources on migrations for enterprise. Both brilliant, brilliant SEOs. I look up to both of them. Lots of resources there to help you stay organized. Migrations are tough, they’re stressful. I had a client tell me that he was more stressed during his migration than planning his and her daughter’s wedding, right? It’s a lot of work. It’s stressful. Especially if the site is making you money. Changing something it’s scary.

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Loren Baker:

Well, you also have to communicate as well, right? It doesn’t always happen, either. There’s surprises that happen along the way, because maybe this team didn’t communicate with that team, or something like that. Getting everyone on the same page is really important. Because you also have things like social icons, images that don’t change, PDFs that are hidden somewhere. Maybe privacy policy or terms of services, and something… It’s hard to do, right? All of that stuff typically comes up. So again, crawl beforehand, crawl afterwards. And be very diligent about that, right? It’s something that’s incredibly important on that site.

Arsen Rabinovich:

The scariest ones are the consolidations. This is when you have multiple sites coming into one, right? Because you have multiple sites that are ranking individually, and then you’re bringing them into one. And those are the heaviest migrates. We do a lot of those will TopHatRank. But those are the most stressful, those require the most amount of planning. You’re essentially replanting the entire information architecture for the site that’s receiving all the sites, right? You want to make sure the redirects are in place. There’s individual change of addresses. It’s a big, big project. And I don’t recommend anyone tackling that on their own without having an SEO agency behind them, helping them with something like that. Because you are going to shoot yourself in the foot with something.

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Loren Baker:

There are a lot of bad migrations out there as well. Like migrations… Well, it feels like to me for the past six months, just the economy has been very merger and acquisition heavy, right? So I’ve worked on multiple projects where there have been acquisitions where someone’s going to acquire their competitors or whatever. And there’s sometimes a sense of impatience with that, I’ve seen an entire site redirected. Just let’s take this site that we bought, and redirect the entire thing to our home, right? Let’s just do it, done. And then also like, “Whoa, whoa, what’s going on here?” So that’s something to keep an eye on too. I’m sure you’re probably dealing with that from time to time as well.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. Lots of that.

Loren Baker:

So how do you… Do you typically see a traffic drop or any changes, even when you do a smooth migration? You know the charts, you see the chart on certain projects, where you have the blue line, and then the green line or whatever. There’s usually that little V or that little X or whatever. Do you see much of a difference from a ranking perspective on a clean migration versus a dirty migration?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Absolutely. Again, depends on what kind of a migration, right? So certain migrations get picked up really fast by Google, right? Something that’s really complex, where you’re changing a lot. When you’re changing a lot of signals around, right? Because everything is a signal, right? And you got to look at it that way. The heading, the title, the internal link, right? You’re changing a lot of signals around. You’re moving… Even you’re keeping the same domain, you’re keeping the same CMS, but you’re just updating your theme, right? You’re going to a new design.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Even that, now, with the new design you might have headings in different places. Content might shift around, right? You’re going to take certain elements away, right? And you got to be aware of a lot of this stuff. You got to be aware of things like, “Is my sidebar on this page contributing to this post or not?” Right, as we will take that into consideration as a part of the evaluation of the site, right? Mueller said at one point, they do look at links in the footer, right? Or they, Sorry. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Let me take a step back, not links in the footer. They do look at comments on the page, right?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

And they will try to understand how these comments relate to the main part of the page, right? They’ll consider them in their evaluation of the entire page, right? You move comments around, you paginate them out, or you completely remove them, you might change certain signals, right? So there’s a lot. There’s a lot to keep in mind. And without giving you, it depends. Typical SEO answer, right? Certain migrations are smooth, right? Like, “We caught everything in the beginning. The staging went great. We had a great developer. Great team of engineers who he worked with. They fixed all of the technical, all the crawlability, accessibility, render ability, index ability issues, were addressed and fixed pre-migration.

Arsen Rabinovich:

That’s the most important thing, you’re knock that out of the way, right? If you can get good clean crawls… And one of the best ways to tell if you’ve had a successful migration is to monitor how Google is engaging with your site. If Google is continuously crawling and trending up, as far as like how many pages it crawls per visit, right? That means that you’ve done a really good migration. If it’s plateauing or dropping off, something is wrong. Start investigating right away. We always monitor Search Console. I think we have access to server logs. We’re constantly monitoring server logs.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

We want to make sure that Google is really understanding what happened here, right? Those kinds of migrations there is a quick fluctuation in rankings. It’s almost those reverse parabolic kind of move, right? And typically, what we see is this, you’re dropping off two, three, four positions. You’re up six, seven, eight positions, and then you drop another two positions. So you’re in net positive of two, three positions, right? But it still does this dance, right? The distance between the curve, how long that curve is, depends on how good that migration was, right?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Did you go from a site… We’ve done migrations, where we went from a PHP, a CMS like WordPress, to a site that was coded using JavaScript, right? So you have a completely different crawling process from Google when it comes to that, right? We have to make sure there’s server-side rendering in place and all of that. So the crawls are the best way to tell… Google’s engagement with your site is the best way to tell how migration went. But the distance between that curve, all depends on how good that migration was.

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Loren Baker:

And another thing to keep in mind also is that when you migrate a domain, depending upon the size of the site, typically you’re going to have to main your most important pages switched fairly quickly. But a lot of those lingering pages may be orphan pages, maybe really deep pages. It’s going to take a while for that domain to update within Google. And then also, if you’re constantly searching for site colon URL, you’re going to get your old URL, whether you like it or not. That’s going to stay there.

Arsen Rabinovich:

It’s hanging out.

Loren Baker:

If you’re searching for the URL, it’s going to stay. But the good thing is when you see a branded query around your old brand, change over to the new domain, that’s a plus, right? But you’ll still see, probably see the… If you change your brand, and you’re searching for brand one when you’re brand two now, you’ll probably see your title tag change back to brand one. Because Google knows that the person is looking for that old brand, right? So if I’m looking for, what’s a big brand that’s recently changed? I can’t think of any. If I’m looking for Cheetos, right? And Cheetos is now Doritos, and I’m typing in Cheetos. I’m going to get the Doritos page, but it’s going to have Cheetos. Because Google’s going to rewrite the title for you. Because they know that’s how you associated with the brand. They know that’s your connection to

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. Based on what the intent, and the intent is derived from the syntax of the query. Absolutely.

Loren Baker:

Speaking of Google, how effective is the change of address tool within Google? Is it more or less effective than the change of address tool at the US Post Office?

Arsen Rabinovich:

You know what? I would say that it’s more effective. It’s important. It’s not like a… How do I explain this? It’s an added bonus, right? It’s you telling Google, “Hey, we have moved.” Right? And there’s a reason Google wants you to keep that old domain up and have an .htaccess file with all the redirects on there. For a long time, I think it’s like, what, four months at this point. It used to be two, three months. Now, Google’s asking for four plus months. It’s important because, you’re helping Google. You’re not relying on that, I don’t know how to explain, that passive index, right? That passive crawl, right?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

You’re telling Google, “Hey, we have moved. Any request here now needs to go here.” Right? And that tells… It’s like a sitemap. It’s almost like submitting a sitemap. You’re telling Google, “Hey, here’s what’s happening.” Change of Address is super important. We swear by it, we love it. We’re so good at it. And it’s not that difficult. It’s not that difficult to do. The difficult part is getting it to really understand when you’re giving it, “Here’s the old URL. And here’s the new URL.” Google can sometimes be tricky in giving you that green light. Saying like, “Okay, you’re good to submit the change of address.”

Loren Baker:

And then also, if you have a migration, that’s not very well planned out, you use a change of address tool, to tell Google that you’re changing your domain to honor the new one. But then you have signals coming from your site. Just like anything else in SEO, right? A mixed signal will cancel each other out, right? So you have signals coming from your site, where you’re bringing in, maybe like some images from the old domain.

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Loren Baker:

Maybe some Java files from the old domain. Whatever it may be, Google’s going to see that, and be like “Hey, whoa. You told me over here that we are changing, but then I go to the site, and I see all this other stuff that’s still referencing the old domain. I’m going to hold back on this.” It’s a lot like if you set your country targeting or your language targeting within GSE, but you don’t have your hreflang set up properly. Which is most of the time.

Arsen Rabinovich:

That’s another thing that gets missed frequently during migration. That gets mixed a lot. I explain to my clients when we do our pre-launch or kickoff calls, I explain to them this. Look, the confusing signals are very confusing for Google. Think of Google as like a very smart, brilliant toddler with ADHD, right? It’s running around, it’s collecting information. The brain is like a sponge, right? It’s hungry for knowledge, it sees a new page it comes and it collects everything, right? But when it’s presented with a problem, it gives up and runs away, right? If you give Google confusing signals, Google’s going to be like, “Whoa, this kind of doesn’t make sense. I’m just going to move on.” Right?

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Arsen Rabinovich:

And you definitely don’t want Google to make those decisions for you, right? At any point. You don’t want Google to… And that’s why I say, write out your metas. Don’t leave it up to Google, right? You don’t want Google to decide which page on your site, you have two pages that cover the same topic very similarly, you don’t want Google to decide which page is the one that’s the most important page for that query. Point to it, right? Tell Google this is it. We have a canonical pointing to a page, and then you have an overwhelming amount of internal links pointing to the same page, that’s being canonicalized somewhere else, right? That’s a confusing signal for Google, right? Google’s going to crawl through that, and Google is going to be confused.

Loren Baker:

Well, they’ll also ignore the rest of your canonicals.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Yeah. Especially for publishers, this is a big deal, right? e-commerce too. Once, you rely on those canonicals. And then Google stops respecting your canonicals, you’re F’d, pooped.

Loren Baker:

Make sure, you’re pooped.

Arsen Rabinovich:

You’re pooped.

Loren Baker:

No bad words on this show.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Holding back.

Loren Baker:

Only potty words. So also, it’s little things too. Like making sure your Open Graph Tags are updated with the new information. Making sure your Twitter cards are updated with the new information. Because when Google sees those mixed signals as well, I’m not 100% sure if it’s still the same. But when the canonical tag rolled out, if your Open Graph was different than the canonical, it just ignored the canonical entirely, right?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Interesting.

Loren Baker:

So you really have to make sure they’re self-referring… They look at that. Even though it’s a protocol put together by Facebook, it’s a lot of companies.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. It’s there. Why not look at it, right?

Loren Baker:

The same reason they look at LinkedIn for authorship confirmation, right? All of that has to do… It’s all integrated. Arsen, I have a couple of minutes left. It’s been really good talking to you today about migrations and everything else. I can do this all day. I think we should probably do a part two.

Arsen Rabinovich:

I would love to. We didn’t get a chance to talk about category pages and all the interesting.

Loren Baker:

Interesting. Super interesting. But I dropped your Twitter handle in here.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Yeah, I see it.

Loren Baker:

People seem to follow you on Twitter, and they can check out your blog. What else are you into besides SEO? I hear you’re quite the cyclist.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Well, yeah. But before we do that, can I do a promo of our webinar that we do for food bloggers? It’s completely free. We do it once a month if you go to our blog, you will see that. If you are a recipe blogger, or any blogger, this is very useful. We do an SEO for publishers webinar. It’s completely free. We don’t pitch or sell you anything. We don’t make money from it. It’s three experts that essentially help you understand everything around blogging on WordPress

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Loren Baker:

Do you help recipe bloggers tell a story about how they discovered the food? Or how they discovered this recipe?

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. I always say, I’m like, “Look, telling people that you’ve discovered this recipe on your self-discovery journey to Costa Rica while you were surfing, doesn’t help them really like your recipe.” Right? Nobody wants to know that, right? There’s definitely better ways to beef up your content, right? Answering questions really digging into understanding the topic, understanding primary secondary intent of the user when they come there. You don’t need to tell that long story. A person’s intent is to look at your recipe for potato soup, they don’t care where you got it, right?

Loren Baker:

They don’t want to scroll down especially on a mobile device.

Arsen Rabinovich:

That jump to recipe button is going to be your savior. But yeah, I ride bikes. I’ve been riding a lot of bikes and I’m trying to get you Mr. Loren Baker, to start riding with me, Mr. Yeah, I’ll get a bike. It was good what, two months now? Two months. I’ve been saying sending you links.

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Loren Baker:

I just don’t know which one to get. It’s so overwhelming.

Arsen Rabinovich:

I bought two bikes in the time that you’ve been waiting to buy your bike.

Loren Baker:

Is a Schwinn a good bike anymore?

Arsen Rabinovich:

No.

Loren Baker:

That’s the thing too. Should I get a Mongoose, or a Huffy? Can I get a huffy? Should I get the one with a bar across the top or the-

Arsen Rabinovich:

Huffys are kind of… I think Huffys and BMXs are popular right now.

Loren Baker:

Really?

Arsen Rabinovich:

They’re these giant Huffys. These giant bikes now, they’re like, 26, 29-inch wheels on these Huffy looking bikes. All the kids are riding. I don’t know, I’m too old. I’m a Boomer.

Loren Baker:

But when you say kids, you mean 20 and 30 year olds.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right.

Loren Baker:

Out here in California, everyone rides the beach-

Arsen Rabinovich:

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Right, with the big handlebars and everybody’s always riding in the wheeling position. Right.

Loren Baker:

I’ll get a bike. It’s not going to have a banana seat. It’s not going to have streamers on the handlebars.

Arsen Rabinovich:

We’ll definitely get jerseys. Can we get matching jerseys?

Loren Baker:

With good sponsors. We need someone to sponsor us.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Search Engine Journal, maybe?

Loren Baker:

I’m not going to wear bike shorts. When you say jersey, You mean one of those really tight jerseys, with pockets on the back to put my bananas in and stuff like that.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. Or other things, you don’t need to put bananas in there.

Loren Baker:

It can’t be too tight.

Arsen Rabinovich:

No. We got to be aerodynamic-

Loren Baker:

Unless it’s one of those shirts that makes it look like you have a trim.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Drawn six packs, right?

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Loren Baker:

Yeah, I get asked for them on Facebook all the time.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Right. Yeah, man. Biking is great. Everybody should be biking.

Loren Baker:

Nice. I love it. Also, if you’d to keep on top of the SEO news that’s out there, make sure you subscribe to Search Engine Journals SEO Today Newsletter. Searchenginejournal.com/subscribe. Again, that’s searchenginejournal.com/subscribe. Don’t miss out on SEO news. And be the last one to hear what’s going on, etc. Dr. Arsen, it’s been a pleasure to have you today.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Thank you so much.

Loren Baker:

Really appreciate, you for jumping on. We should really follow up with a migration guide or something like that, on the site. So I’ll talk to Danny about it as well.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Maybe we can write one.

Loren Baker:

It’s amazing how overlooked everything is in the migration site. And something interesting that you bring up, a lot of the time people look at migrations from the changing of brand or domain. But sometimes migrations, especially on the CMS side will be rushed, right? So you have to treat those equally. Because the damage can be equal if missed.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

You will wind up spending, kind of in closing, you will wind up a botched migration. If you’re keeping out, before the migration and you don’t want to hire somebody who knows what they’re doing, you will wind up spending twice the amount post back then. Because you’re going to spend money with somebody like me, and then you’re going to have spend money again with your engineers to fix the issues that were overlooked pre-migration. It’s always easier to catch it before you…

Loren Baker:

Love it. Words of wisdom to live by.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Russian expression. Measure twice, cut once, right?

Loren Baker:

Trust but verify.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Trust but verify.

Loren Baker:

All right. Well, it was great talking to you.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Thank you for having me.

Loren Baker:

Have a great weekend.

Arsen Rabinovich:

Thank you.

Loren Baker:

I’ll talk to you soon. Thank you very much.

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Arsen Rabinovich:

Bye.

 

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